London: In Ibiza and the Côte d’Azur, it is de rigueur to arrive for dinner by speedboat, but now it is possible in London too. A service being launched this week offers diners the chance to be picked up at any pier on the Thames, taken for a spin at speeds of up to 35 knots, then dropped off for dinner at one of a wide range of restaurants, from the Dove, a historic pub in Hammersmith, to Le Pont de la Tour, the restaurant by Tower Bridge where Tony Blair entertained Bill Clinton in 1997. London Rib Voyages, the company running the service, says it hopes it will be popular for birthdays and special occasions as well as for corporate entertainment. There’s a flat fee of £365 per boat, per hour, which covers up to 12 passengers.
New York: Sales of guidebooks may be collapsing as tourists turn to online information sources but one group of travel writers has come up with a novel way of harnessing the internet to their advantage. The New York-based website www.fortnighter.com uses a network of more than 60 writers to create personalised itineraries for travellers, who input their destination, length of trip and interests. Costs vary, but average $150.
Edinburgh: After a three-year, £46m refurbishment, the National Museum of Scotland reopens on July 29, promising “the world under one roof”. Sixteen new galleries have been added to the existing 20, covering nature, science and the remote cultures encountered by early Scottish explorers, merchants and missionaries. The 20,000 objects on display range from a Martian meteorite to the world’s oldest colour television.
Hanoi: Vietnam Airlines is to launch the first direct flights between Vietnam and the UK on December 8. It plans to operate four flights a week to London Gatwick, two from Hanoi and two from Ho Chi Minh City. The move is part of the airline’s ambitious wider expansion plans, as it seeks to capitalise on the growing number of tourists visiting Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
Languedoc: A château left derelict for more than 20 years reopens next weekend as a holiday retreat promising the facilities and standards of a luxury hotel, combined with the space of a private villa and the character of a working winery. Château Les Carrasses, which was built in 1886, has been converted into 28 suites, ranging from one to three bedrooms, and the vineyards surrounding the château have been brought back into production by winemaker David Alcaraz. A range of wine-themed activities, from tutored tastings to meeting local winemakers, will be on offer throughout the summer. Suites sleeping up to four cost from €200 per night in August.
Bruneck: A “mountain museum” created by the world’s most celebrated living climber has opened at Bruneck castle in the Italian Dolomites. For the last two decades, Reinhold Messner, the Italian mountaineer who was the first to climb all the world’s 14 peaks above 8,000m, has been developing a chain of museums throughout the Dolomites. Each focuses on a different element of mountain culture, from the history of climbing to art from mountain regions. The Bruneck museum is the fifth and final Messner Mountain Museum, and concentrates on mountain peoples, from Himalayan sherpas to the Walsers of the Alps.